I have taken over most of the household duties and responsibilities since my husband had surgery three years ago. The circumstances of the surgery led to a marked decrease in his long- and short-term memory. I sometimes resent having to do those duties and responsibilities and to deal with his questions, paranoia, forgetfulness and irrational thinking on a daily and hourly basis. Retirement communities, assisted living, and in-home assistance didn’t work out; so here we are.
Yet, I am fortunate, my family is close, we are financially sound, we have a nice place to live and we are physically healthy. So, how do I get past the feelings of self-pity that often sneak in?
The website offered good ideas. It suggests that people who are “mentally strong” use life’s inevitable hardships as a way to grow more resourceful. So how can I develop mental strength?
The article offered nine tips that made sense to me:
1. Face your feelings. Don’t distract from uncomfortable emotions just experience them.
2. Recognize warning signs of a downward spiral. Take action to prevent yourself from living a discouraged life.
3. Question your perceptions. When you feel sorry for yourself, you may be focusing on the bad things in life and overlooking the good. So, ask yourself do these thoughts represent reality?
4. Turn negative thoughts into behavioral experiments. Don’t let negative thoughts turn into self-fulfilling prophecies; but conduct behavioral experiments to prove those thoughts wrong. When you think something, “I could never be a care provider,” respond with, “Challenge accepted!”
5. Reserve your resources for productive activities. Refuse to waste time and energy in misery. Instead, devote your resources to productive activities that can improve the situation.
6. Practice gratitude. It’s hard to feel self-pity and gratitude at the same time. So, recognize what you are grateful for in life—right down to the fresh air and clean water.
7. Help other people. It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you’re busy helping those who are less fortunate. You may find you are more fortunate than you thought.
8. Refuse to complain. Don’t try to get sympathy by complaining. Instead, take action to make things better or accept situations that you can’t change.
9. Maintain an optimistic outlook. Certain life problems can’t be prevented or solved. The loss of loved ones, natural disasters, and certain health conditions are problems we face at one time or another, so, keep an optimistic outlook about your ability to handle whatever life throws their way.
Developing mental strength is similar to building physical strength. If you want to be physically strong, you need good habits such as lifting weights. You also need to get rid of bad habits, such as eating too many snacks. Developing mental strength also requires you to have good habits and to give up destructive ones, such as self-pity. There is no doubt that being a care-provider is a difficult job fraught with frustration and sadness.
However, by developing an increased ability to regulate your thoughts, manage your emotions, and behave productively despite your circumstances, you will grow stronger and be more able to do the job.